UNSW told not to publish student evals of courses

The university wanted to publish data from student assessments of courses on an “interactive dashboard.” Nothing-doing the union responded and the Fair Work Commission agrees

While the university did not plan to publish the names of academics along with course evaluations, opponents of the idea argue it would not be hard for the campus community to work out which staff taught what courses – and that could lead to effective league tables of staff performance.

But it cannot happen, the National Tertiary Education Union, told the Fair Work Commission, because of clause 27 (e) of the UNSW enterprise agreement. It states that ex legal and regulatory requirements, “course evaluation data will not be published in a form that identifies individual staff members to any persons beyond relevant line management … or students involved in the relevant course.”

To which management responded in the FWC, that the union, “overstates the effect of this clause and seeks to impose a restriction on UNSW which goes beyond the words used in the agreement.”

However, Commissioner Johns found, “by merely looking at the published data staff members are not named. They are not identified expressly. But the publication of course numbers, names and the term in which it was taught assists to identify staff. The form of what is published makes it searchable. Once a search is conducted staff are identifiable.”

As such, this would be inconsistent with the agreement.

But the commissioner had a suggestion for management and union. “I should not be taken to be expressing any view about the disability of publishing data that is accessible for staff and students (even if it identifies staff members). That is a separate issue. It is an issue the parties could address in the context of enterprise bargaining.”

The university’s enterprise agreement expires in April.

Last night the university stated, “the data included was limited to courses where there were two or more teaching staff and where 10 or more students had responded. As such, the course survey outcomes were not attributable to any one person.

“UNSW does not consider that, in making quantitative course outcomes available, it had breached the provisions of the Enterprise Agreement. Nonetheless, UNSW has removed the dashboard.”